UNSUB by Meg Gardiner


Meg Gardiner

The terrifying serial killer at the heart of Unsub is inspired by the Zodiac Killer, who terrorized California's Bay Area in the late 1960s before disappearing forever...

Access the hottest new Penguin Random House books months before they hit the shelves.

Sign In or Join Today


Sign me up to receive news about Meg Gardiner.

Place our blog button on your blog to let people know you are a member of this great program!

A riveting psychological thriller inspired by the never-caught Zodiac Killer, about a young detective determined to apprehend the serial murderer who destroyed her family and terrorized a city twenty years earlier.
Caitlin Hendrix has been a Narcotics detective for six months when the killer at the heart of all her childhood nightmares reemerges: the Prophet. An UNSUB—what the FBI calls an unknown subject—the Prophet terrorized the Bay Area in the 1990s and nearly destroyed her father, the lead investigator on the case.

The Prophet’s cryptic messages and mind games drove Detective Mack Hendrix to the brink of madness, and Mack’s failure to solve the series of ritualized murders—eleven seemingly unconnected victims left with the ancient sign for Mercury etched into their flesh—was the final nail in the coffin for a once promising career.

Twenty years later, two bodies are found bearing the haunting signature of the Prophet. Caitlin Hendrix has never escaped the shadow of her father’s failure to protect their city. But now the ruthless madman is killing again and has set his sights on her, threatening to undermine the fragile barrier she rigidly maintains for her own protection, between relentless pursuit and dangerous obsession.

Determined to decipher his twisted messages and stop the carnage, Caitlin ignores her father’s warnings as she draws closer to the killer with each new gruesome murder. Is it a copycat, or can this really be the same Prophet who haunted her childhood? Will Caitlin avoid repeating her father’s mistakes and redeem her family name, or will chasing the Prophet drag her and everyone she loves into the depths of the abyss?

Advance Galley Reviews

Caitlin Hendrix is called in to help after the Prophet, the serial killer who killed her father's partner and ruined his law enforcement career and his mind, starts killing again after 20 years. The Prophet seems to be connected to Mercury and astrology. He also taunts the police relentlessly and seems to know their every move. Will Caitlin be able to find the Prophet and save the lives of countless people in San Francisco before he pulls his final act, or will he take her down and the ones she loves too? I really enjoyed this book, but a few things were over the top for me. However, it's a solid read and I would recommend it to anyone who likes hardcore thrillers. Not exactly for the squeamish.

I've not read anything by Meg Gardner previously, but am a huge fan of Alex Kava's Maggie O'Dell series, police procedurals, shows like Criminal Minds, and true crime anything. In this book, Gardner has created a thrilling, chilling, and slightly gory tale that feels like you've stepped into a Criminal Minds episode. I found myself drawn into Caitlin's world and hoping against hope that she would catch the Prophet before another murder had taken place. I was rooting for Caitlin, Sean, and hoping that her father would find redemption in helping to catch the killer. This book is pretty intense and leaves room at the end for a potential sequel, for which I will be watching.

What a fabulous, chilling, gory, unputdownable book. I loved every page. I raced through this book at lightening speed, unable to stop reading because of the need to know how it was all going to work out in the end. And it was worth every moment spent flipping pages. Seriously amazing. Caitlin was fascinating, as was her father, Mack. I enjoyed getting to know them, discovering what made them tick and what ultimately unraveled him and what drives her. For both of them it's The Prophet. For Mack it's his failure to apprehend him, and for Caitlin it's the need to. And so begins a game of cat and mouse that is awesome to behold. The murders and the crime scenes are grisly, the Propher was one unhinged fellow. And the police work is fascinating. I love reading about this process. I highly recommend this book to lovers of police procedurals, twisted serial killers and books that you simply cannot put down until you've turned the last page. This was a stunner!

I really enjoyed this one. I have never read anything written by Meg Gardiner before picking up this book but after reading the description, I knew that I would have to give this book a shot. I am very glad that I did. The books opens with a lot of excitement so I was immediately hooked. There was never a moment where I felt like I wanted to put this book down even though I had to every once in a while due to various responsibilities including my job and other such boring things. This was one of those stories that really got into my head and didn't let go until I got to the last page. The Prophet killed one person after another, sometimes more than one at a time, before suddenly stopping over twenty years ago. He was never caught and he killed his victims in different ways so that it was hard for the police to get ahead of him. Mack Hendrix was one of those detectives tasked with catching this ruthless serial killer. He was never able to catch the murderer and the case ended up destroying his life. Caitlin, Mack's daughter, became a detective even after everything her father has went through. She has worked in narcotics but as soon as a murder occurs similar to that of the Prophet, she gets a call. Is it a copycat or could the Prophet be back? She is highly motivated to catch this killer but also fears losing herself in the case as her father did. I really liked the characters in this one. They just all felt really authentic to me. Caitlin seemed like she really cared about her job but she worked hard to have a life outside of it. I really felt that all of her emotions during the case were very well done. Sean was amazing. He knew exactly how to be supportive without being overbearing. I thought that Sean and Caitlin were wonderful together. The secondary characters were equally well done. I thought that the mystery was exciting and pretty complex. This wasn't one of those books where you figure out what is going on early on. I don't think I ever figured anything out before the author wanted me to but I never stopped trying. All of the descriptions in the story really helped bring the story to life. I would highly recommend this book to fans of mystery thrillers. This story does involve a serial killer so there are a few more graphic scenes as you would expect in this kind of story. I am really looking forward to future book in this series. I received an advance reader edition of this book from Penguin Group Viking - Dutton Books via First to Read.

Wow! Twisty, deep, and sinister. Grips you and drags you down into the depths of hell, literally. At times I had to stop and take a breath even as I wanted to read right through to the end. Caitlin was a deeply flawed, passionate character who I was surprised by how much I identified with. She was smart and strong but had a deep vulnerability she couldn't quite hide that made her relatable. Instead of the usual hard as nails, almost ruthless lady cop who takes no ones crap, we get to see the nerves, anxiety and bravery Caitlin uses to follow this killer down his crazy rabbit hole. I liked the twist in the cliffhanger and can't wait to met up with Caitlin again in the next book.

Thank you, Penguin and First to Read for the opportunity to read this ebook. This was interesting from the beginning. It started off well and ended well. The characters were complex and had real oomph. It really made the storyline easy to read because the main character, Caitlin was terrific. Her background and her history with her father was most interesting to read about. I really liked the authors' spin on the Zodiac Killers case from the 70s. It's very terrifying, but it was a good base for an excellent storyline. I will definitely be reading more from Meg Gardiner.

Although the plot and characters were a bit formulaic, I enjoyed reading this face-paced thriller. It was well-written, and I look forward to reading the implied second installment.

4/5 stars I'm a huge unsolved mysteries buff. Constantly watching videos about them, reading books, etc., but fiction novels inspired by them can be so hit or miss with me. Sometimes it comes off as too close a copy where you just cut and paste different names or places, but Gardner's Unsub does not fall victim to that trap. The killer here is completely his own beast, with his own motives and personality when dealing with the police and press. Obviously anyone can see the connections drawing to the Zodiac Killer (that's also on the billing) but it can stand on its own just fine. The characters are very well written and I especially enjoyed Mack trying to redeem himself and what ended up happening with him and the reason behind his actions. My only real complaint is the use of countdowns. It's frustrating, because like in movies and shows it's always a cheap way to up the ante, while completely unrealistic. The space between actions seems much too long for the minute that it is supposed to be happening in. I just wish the action could come to a boil with some other, not overused, technique. That's where the -1 star comes from, unfortunately.

Fast paced. Full of twists and turns. Great read.

This is such a fantastic book by Meg Gardiner. A twisted psychological tale that follows Caitlin Hendrix, a detective following in her fathers footsteps. That takes a more literal turn when the same killer that consumed her father's life has returned and is back with a vengeance. Now she must work to save the lives of the innocents, as well as fight to reclaim the sanity stolen from her father. This story follows the narrative of Caitlin, who has a great story-line and voice. I felt like I could easily identify with Caitlin, and she was instantly likeable. I do wish the reader had a little bit more context on her outside life beyond the killer. However, this is easily overlooked. Overall this was a 9/10 for me. Good plot, good narrative, compelling story and characters. Definitely looking forward to the next book in the series if there is one! *Thank you to Penguin Random House for providing the ARC for a review*

A reimagining of the Zodiac Killer, The Prophet has terrorized the Bay Area for decades. After disappearing for 20 years, he's made a reappearance and has begun killing again. Caitlin, whose father worked on the original case, is one of the main detectives. The Prophet uses her close connection to the case to draw her in . . . I was surprised by how long it took me to get into this book. As a true crime fanatic and lover of thrillers and mysteries, I didn't think this would be an issue. No matter how compelling the plot is, the poor writing kept me from enjoying the book entirely.


Thank you First To Read for allowing me to read this in exchange for an honest review. I just finished Unsub and I'm already thinking about the next book. Wondering how long before it's out and who will be in it. 5 star books aren't easy to come by. Thank you Meg Gardiner for this one. The characters, plot, believability, pacing and originality were all on point. Caitlin made a great MC. Looking for a serial killer named the Prophet that ended her father's career and changed their lives. She was determined to find him. There was something about the Prophet that had me a little scared. Had my heart beating a little fast in a way I love while reading psychological thrillers.

I read a lot of thrillers and true crime. I especially enjoy books about serial killers. I've long been a fan of Patricia Cornwall, Kathy Reichs, and loved Thomas Harris' Silence of the Lambs. Unsub was a very good read and would be excellent for fans of these authors. I can see the characters of Caitlin and boyfriend Sean making a comeback in a series. The tension built at a steady pace and I found the clues based on Dante's Inferno to be another big draw, possibly for Dan Brown readers.

I received an ARC of 'UNSUB' by Meg Gardiner. This was one of the best mystery/thriller novels that I've read is more than a year. Caitlin Hendrix as a junior level detective is asked to join a murder investigation because of her father's experience when he failed to catch 'The Prophet'. The development of Caitlin and her father are excellent, however the other members of the investigative team are somewhat lacking. The pace of the novel is that of a thriller with action coming faster with each scene. The author adds enough suspense and clues to allow the novel to be looked at as a mystery as well but the psychological aspects which are constantly present with Caitlin and her father Mack along with how 'The Prophet' plays with the detectives is very well done. The end of the novel set us up for a sequel that I look forward to reading. This is one of the best thrillers that I've read and I would give it five stars.

Caitlin Hendrix knows the cop's life like she knows the cuts on her tattooed arm. She grew up the daughter of a conflicted detective, Mack, who chased and failed to catch The Prophet, a serial killer who takes a 20-year break only to come back just as Caitlin is making headway as a detective herself. He draws her further into his web with each killing, threatening to turn her into her father--a bitter man still obsessed with finding him and consequently who has turned everyone who matters to him away. This thriller hits all the right spots for those who like their fiction fast-paced and tightly plotted. Gardiner has many novels under her belt--and this is a real departure from her earlier work in terms of style. But she deftly takes the reader through story and sets it up for the sequel. Great read. You won't be disappointed.

Heart-pounding psychological thriller. The writer put a lot of obvious attention to the research that was required to make all of the pieces come together on this one. The intricacy between the killer’s motivation and how the author was able to keep everything flowing smoothly is truly impressive. This was an excellent read. It hits all the right buttons for a murder mystery/cop thriller. A likeable, complex protagonist who is struggling with the ghosts of not only her own past as a cop’s daughter, but with her father’s inability to capture and stop The Prophet. The killer has been dormant for 20 years, just long enough for our protagonist, Caitlin to grow up and find her own place in the department. Then tragedy strikes, and she gets sucked back into the world of the Prophet, having mostly put it from her mind after stumbling upon her father’s murder room where he kept all his research into the case. The killer is now fixated on Caitlin and determined to suck her and everyone she cares about into his world. The pace is fast and tense, ebbing and flowing at just the right moments to keep the reader on the edge of their seat without burning them out with constant build up. When someone Caitlin truly cares for is taken from her can father and daughter come together one last time to find the man that’s been in the periphery of their lives for decades? Complete with a surprise twist at the end, Unsub is intense from start to finish and should be on your “must read” list.

UNSUB by Meg Gardiner is the first novel by the author I have had the pleasure of reading but I will definitely be checking out her other work as well. This fast-paced thriller hooks you from the first page and doesn't let go. Caitlin Hendrix grew up hearing about the Prophet since she was a little girl because her father was a lead detective on the case. Unfortunately, The Prophet disappeared after a disaster happened at the last crime scene that sent her father to a psych ward. Twenty years later, Caitlin has followed in her father's footsteps and has become a police officer and a murder has occurred that has the Prophet's signature. Caitlin has to use her own intellect and her father's insider information to hopefully break the case and catch the killer. Emotional, gripping and creepy, this story will stay with you and make you lock your doors at night. Definitely recommend.

Unsub is definitely an on the edge of your seat thriller. I read it in practically in one sitting because it was impossible to put down. It’s one of those books that never slows down and it leaves you anxious - in a good way! - as you read it. It’s not for the squeamish and it’s not for those who like everything resolved in the end. Caitlin Hendrix has followed in her father’s footsteps and become a police officer. Her father, Mack, was a homicide detective and Caitlin is a detective working narcotics. When Caitlin was a child, her father was obsessed with finding a serial killer, nicknamed the Prophet, who terrorized the San Francisco Bay area for five years, taunting Mack and leaving a trail of gruesome murders and broken lives in his wake. The case landed Mack in a psychiatric hospital for six months and destroyed his marriage and weakened his relationship with his daughter. The killer was never arrested. Over twenty years later, two bodies are discovered that bear the Prophet’s signature: the sign for Mercury. Is the Prophet back after two decades of silence or is this a vicious and cunning copycat? Caitlin is transferred to the homicide division to assist in tracking down the killer. The killer leaves disturbing and cryptic messages at the scenes like the Prophet did in the 90s. He also is killing in pairs which is another hallmark of the Prophet. When he starts to reach out to Caitlin directly (as the Prophet did with her father), the homicide team can’t deny it is a strong possibility that the Prophet is really back and has made Caitlin the focus of his attention. Caitlin seeks out her father for help since he is the expert on the Prophet. At first, he dismisses her and tells her to walk away from the case. He does not want her to end up broken like him. Eventually, and after the killer starts contacting Caitlin, Mack is more cooperative, giving her everything he has on the Prophet. It is still an uneasy alliance but Caitlin needs his help. She also has help from her boyfriend, Sean, who is an ATF agent. She assures them that she will not let the killer get inside her head and turn her pursuit of him into an obsession. Easier said than done... So often with thrillers, the characters read like cardboard cutouts. Thankfully, that is not the case here. I really like the characters - they feel very real and flawed. The writing is first rate and the tension is through the roof. The story is very clever and it exceeded my expectations. There are a few things I could nitpick but there is nothing major except the cliffhanger ending. Cliffhangers drive me nuts. It feels like this book is setting up a series and I really hope so because I really want to read more about these characters. This was my first book by Meg Gardiner and it most definitely will not be my last. Highly recommended for serial killer thriller fans!

This book grabs you from the first paragraph and never lets go!!!! The plot has twists and turns, the characters are interesting and dynamic. It was interesting to see the relationship between father and daughter improve throughout the novel. It took both of them to solve this case in which the father had been investigating for years.

It's pretty obvious this book is a Zodiac inspired nightmare, but that's ok. It was an exciting read with a strong female lead, which is rare for a book about serial killers. It's not my typical genre, but it was engaging and easy to read. I'd definitely recommend it to my reader friends.

This is one of the creepiest books i have read since Silence of the lambs. Don't want to provide any specifics because you should know almost nothing when you start reading it. Just enjoy. Five stars. Looking forward to her next book

Meg Gardiner's new book UNSUB is fantastic. It's filled with strong characters, plenty of action, and so many edge of your seat moments that I lost count. Detective Caitlin Hendrix has just gotten home after an evening raid by her drug task force team when she is summoned to a crime scene. Once there Homicide Sergeant Guthrie escorts her to the victim. It is there that she sees the killers mark. The Prophet has returned after a 20 year absence. The Prophet who on his first go round was pursued by Caitlin's father Detective Mack Hendrix before Mack went over the edge and tried to kill himself. Now Caitlin must try and stop him before he kills more innocent lives and before he drives her down the same path as her father. Author Meg Gardiner has created something eerie and evil here with The Prophet, and when matched against the smarts and determination of Caitlin Hendrix should make UNSUB the book everyone is dying to read this year. ??????????

This was an amazing thrill ride! It kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time I was reading. I loved every minute of it. I would read anything else she wrote!

Thank you First to Read for the opportunity to preview "UNSUB" by Megan Gardiner. A young woman, Caitlin Hendrix, grows up knowing that bad things happen. Her father was a lead investigator on a serial murder case and she knows that there are many twisted and psycotic people in the world. Her father was broken by "The Prophet" - a killer in the bay state area. Her father never solved the case. Twenty years later, Caitlin herself is a detective. When a series of killing starts, she begins to wonder if they are related to "The Prophet". Will she be like her father - never successfully closing these murders and be driven to madness....or will she become obsessed chasing a ghost of a killer. This is a good crime novel, somewhat predicable, but a good summer read. I didn't find anything really different about this book and that was a disappointment. Characters are developed and plot is steady. Great Beach Read!

I don't think I've read any of Gardiner's previous books, and after reading this one, I think I will continue that trend. It's not bad; it's just pretty blah. I've read a lot of similar books to this one that were much better written and had much more interesting plot points. The ending was also very frustrating and seemed to come out of nowhere (and not in a good way). The whole book just felt very cliche and mediocre. I would not recommend.

Meg Gardiner sets the pace early and it continues with every page you turn. The protagonist is smart and tough as nails with an undercurrent of vulnerability that gives Gardiner's characters their edge that makes you fearful of their fate and hopeful they'll succeed in finding The Prophet. It will keep you on the edge of your seat and I dare you to try and put it down. A fabulous crime thriller by one of the best.

This was the first book that I have read by Ms. Gardiner and I found myself drawn into the book by the end of the first chapter. I thought that the character development was very well thought out and the pace of the book kept me glued to my seat. I will be interested in following this character in the follow up book and see how it finally ends. If the rest of her books are as well written as this one was I will be looking for more by this author. I received an advance reading copy of this book from First to Read in exchange for a fair review.

I received an advance reading copy of this book from First to Read in exchange for a review. Detective Caitlin Hendrix finds herself facing a serial killer thought long gone. Lured into the same case that ruined her father's career, if not his life, she must find a way to stop the Prophet before he ruins hers, or ends it. Fast paced and full of twists and turns Unsub will keep you turning pages and wondering what will happen next. The action and psychological aspects blend to create a great book.

Caitlin, having grown up watching her dad fall apart after failing to capture Prophet, a serial killer, becomes a police detective herself. After 20 years of quiet, the Prophet returns to strike again and Caitlin is allowed to be on the team, mainly because she has access to her father and everything he knew. I was surprised by a few of the main parts of the storyline. Caitlin, with her supervisor’s approval, teams up with a woman who runs an online community dedicated to the Prophet. Now, in many books, Deralynn, would have been the main character as the novice detective and struggling to get the police to give her information. Why would an actual detective work so closely with a civilian? It made no sense. The second issue I had with the book was when the investigators realized that the Prophet was referring to a book, instead of finding an expert on it, they went out to grab several copies of the book and spent the weekend reading it for themselves. Why? This is the Bay Area. There are several excellent universities with scholars that could provide expert advice regarding the book and about the Prophet who relies on it. (Please note I am not mentioning the source document as, if you don’t guess it on your own, it is a major plot point and would be a spoiler.) It isn’t like this police force hasn’t already looked outside their ranks for assistance. Asking the reader to overlook these issues is a bit much and I expected more from Ms. Gardiner.

This is the first book I've read by Meg Gardiner but I look forward to reading more of her books. Caitlin Hendrix was a child when her detective father worked and failed to catch the serial killer the Prophet. Twenty years later and the serial killer has become active again and Caitlin is transferred from narcotics to homicide to try to finish the case her father couldn't solve. I enjoyed the book and thought it picked up speed and got better and better the further along you got in it. It appears this is going to be the start of a new series and I look forward to reading more about Caitlin and Sean.

This is the first book I have read by Meg Gardiner, and it certainly won't be my last. She throw the reader right into the story and keeps you wondering what happens next up until the very end. And that ending! I can't wait to read more of what happens next.

Gardiner pulls no punches. The reader is not eased into this story, but plunged in to an icy bath of tension and not a little horror. It starts with a trauma, though not an actual murder, then fast-forwards twenty years. Caitlin Hendrix is a tough character with a touchy and complicated family situation and the intensity you find only in rookie homicide cops. She also has a heavy legacy hanging over her head. Gardiner writes her with sensitivity and gives her a full range of dimension. As the tension in the story builds, so does the tension in Hendrix's relationships. A big win for the author is how she takes only a chapter to introduce you to the Prophet's victims. It's enough to let the reader get to know them and feel their fear and mourn them when their lives are snuffed out. While the story was inspired by the Zodiac murders, it wholly stands on its own. Gardiner is a force to be reckoned with.

This was the first book I read from Meg Gardiner and will definitely not be the last. The sheer intelligence and creativity in the novel is astounding. The book had me enraptured from beginning to end.

I have read almost all of Meg Gardiner's books and this one did not disappoint. Like all of her novels, there's no slow build - the action ramps up right away and never stops. It reads like an action/thriller movie, which is a good thing. It also reminded me a lot of "The Silence of the Lambs," not in a copycat way, but in terms of the evolving plot and relationships. My only slight negative was I felt that the California serial killer plot was a bit "been there, done that," but then I watched the episode of "48 Hours" about the Golden State Killer while in the middle of reading this and that made it seem all the more real. Obviously the first in a new series, it provides a good introduction to main character Caitlin Hendrix and other supporting characters. The partial cliffhanger ending means I'll be anxiously awaiting the next installment.

This book is amazing! I have been wanting to read Meg Gardiner for awhile and was excited when this came up for review, since I could read her without being behind already in series. The characters have real flaws, responses to stress, and reactions to the twists and turns that come up through the story. I enjoyed this book a lot and will be happy when the sequel arrives.

What a great book! Had me sucked into the story right from the beginning. Especially where Caitlin was counting down how much time she had left, had me on the edge of my seat. Very suspense full!!

I basically read this book in one sitting. It really kept me on my toes with its creepiness. It's the first time in a long time I literally felt scared while reading (though I must admit some parts felt a little unrealistic). I was a little disappointed that the ending was set up for a sequel when I thought this was a stand-alone novel (and GoodReads doesn't show anything about a sequel). Still, I would definitely read a sequel if there is one!


More to Explore

  • The Dirty Secrets Club
  • China Lake
  • The Memory Collector
  • Crosscut

Copy the following link